This is Dedicated to the One(s) I Love

When you have a blog with a name like wordsxo you think a lot about love—roughly translated wordsxo means love of words.

So when I went to look for Valentine’s Day cards and saw a card with x’s and o’s on it, I started thinking about how xo signifies hugs and kisses. Wikipedia says x’s (as kisses) originated back in the Medieval Ages; o’s (as hugs) more recently, perhaps in North America. Even more recently xo has come to simply signify love and affection.

The truth is I’m a little in love with the whole concept of love. I always have been. Maybe it’s because “my family of origin” didn’t express love much. My mother said “I love you” to me only once, and my father has said it only occasionally since my mother died over ten years ago. We didn’t talk about feelings—ever—and to say it was discouraged would be perhaps the understatement of the millennium.

That’s probably why when I married, I married for love. My husband—who you know as MEH(My Engineer Husband)—is the love of my life, my soul mate, and I tell him I love him at least once a day. I sign every single note and email, large or small, with “I love you, xo J.” We end every phone call, no matter how short, with “I love you.”

And that extends to our two kids: every call ends with “I love you.” My son, a medical student, has called me back because he didn’t hear my “I love you” at the end of a call. Every note, every letter I write him is signed with a “heart” Mom. For my daughter, a college student, it’s “I love you xox times a trillion,” even at the end of a text message conversation.

These codes between us, small intimate gestures, let them know they are my number one priority and I love them absolutely unconditionally. They know without question this is so—it’s something we’ve talked about as a family.

Aside from our small nuclear family, this circle of love extends to our and our children’s close friends, our small extended family—and now to you, my blogging and Twitter friends.

One blogging friend, Hallie Sawyer, recently wrote in a card to me: “There are days when I shake my head and wonder ‘how did I get here?’—as a writer surrounded by all the love and support of people I have never met! It’s crazy, wacky, wonderful, priceless, and something I will be eternally grateful for.”

I couldn’t have said it better, Hallie.

A recent post by Hallie on handwritten notes inspired me to start writing more handwritten letters and cards, and since her post I’ve sent out 18 handwritten notes to family and friendsincluding some of you. Through the past year of blogging, I’ve been fortunate to exchange letters and even some packages with several blogging friends. In the past month I’ve written to others; in return I’ve received handwritten letters back, full of love and support, from people “I’ve never met,” as Hallie wrote.

I don’t know how I got here either, surrounded by the love and support of my blogging and tweeting friends, but it’s something I too will be eternally grateful for.
So please accept this Valentine…

With love from wordsxo,

xo Julia 

p.s. I would love to send you a handwritten note! If you would like one, please let me know in comments, and I’ll contact you for your address. 


  1. Emma Pass says:

    What a wonderful post, Julia. I feel exactly the same as you and Hallie. I’m extremely grateful to have met so many wonderful, supportive through blogging and Twitter – of which you, of course, are one!

    And what a lovely idea about the notes. I would love to receive one – thank you. x

  2. CMSmith says:

    I feel the love. Hugs right back to you, Julia.

  3. CMSmith says:

    I feel the love. Hugs right back to you, Julia.

  4. What a sweet post, Julia! I agree with you 100 percent! And, yes, handwritten notes are very special. I received one from a friend/colleague for the holidays, and I’ve kept it on my desk. It always makes me smile.

  5. I love you, too, Julia! We should definitely exchange hand-written letters! 😀

    I’m the same with my closest people; there’s an “I love you” or whatever appropriate approximation between us at the end of every contact, including text messages. It’s just a part of life.


  6. Ann says:

    Julia….you are lovely – thank you!

    I was one of those lucky kids. My parents told me they loved me and I got a hug and kiss every day. Rather than take it for granted, I treasured it! No conversation, phone call or day goes by without an “I love you” as well….

    ….and girlfriend? I love you!

  7. Chris Fries says:

    Awwwww….. I’m touched, Julia!

    Many cyber-XOXOXXO’s to you, too!!!

    You’re a true gem!

  8. Emma, Thank you! It is remarkable, isn’t it? And your handwritten note? It will be in the post soon! 🙂 xo Julia

    Christine, Big hugs, friend! xo Julia

    Dina, Thank you! It is quite remarkable what a difference the handwritten note makes in making that connection, isn’t it? Here’s to more handwriting in 2012! xo Julia

    Ashlee, It’s so wonderful that we’ve connected first through blogging, then through Facebook, then through Twitter, and now via handwriting…. kind of a funny world, isn’t it? Yes, the expressions are such an important part of life! I love you too! xo Julia

    Ann, I love you, too, girlfriend, and it just isn’t a real blog post unless I get a comment from you. (No pressure, but for reals!) xo Julia

    Chris, You are so sweet! And made my day! Many xoxoxoxoxo’s (to infinity) to you as well, my friend! xo Julia

  9. What a wonderful post (you must have been jumping for joy when you found that XO card!)… But thank you for sharing such intimate details of your family life growing up and the life of love you’ve carved for your own nuclear family. It is testament, as always, to your goodness, Julia. Your family is so lucky!

    Ironically, I grew up in a family where “I love you” was never said, either. I think I’ve heard it maybe once or twice from both parents (and ONLY when I put them on the spot as an adult and they said it back). BUT the difference, in my case, is that the love was there; it was felt and understood, but just never verbalized. I have a grandmother who tosses out “I love yous” like they are candy, BUT her actions speak the opposite, and I never have felt genuine love from her. When those words fall from her lips, they are meaningless, empty – a show, more than anything else, to make up for her shortcomings.

    You’ve made me think a lot about “love” – the words to express it and even the actions that make it real. Thanks, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  10. Melissa, So glad you liked the post 🙂 I love your line: “….a grandmother who tosses out ‘I love yous’ like they are candy.” Terrible story beautifully told! You are so sweet, too kind, and always appreciated. I am so lucky to have you as a faithful commenter on my blog, dear friend. xo Julia

  11. I love getting letters in the mailbox. I’ve been thinking about sending more real mail, but so far, that hasn’t translated into much stamp action. I made a birthday card to send to a friend and wrote a long letter (9 pages) to another. Since then, I’ve gone back to e-mail.

    You’ve inspired me to try harder. 🙂
    P.S. Please be my pen pal.

  12. Awww, Julia. ((Hugs)) to you on this Valentine’s Day eve. We say “I love you” a lot in my immediate family as well. I’m so glad my kids, like yours, are not afraid to keep saying it. Everyone could use a little more love in their lives, don’t you think?

    Happy Valentine’s Day. Love the XO card, btw. Awesome!

  13. Miss Julia, sweet ain’t got nothin’ on you. Thanks for the mention but really it is you that makes what I wrote so utterly true.

    My favorite sign offs to my kids is xo to infinity, I love you to the sky and back, or I say “I” then they say “love” and then together we say “you”. Kids and writer friends are the bestest. 😉

    I relate to Melissa a little in that I had a Grandma that said it so much that we practically rolled our eyes. She would say, “Do you love me?” like a two year old. My dad never said it really until I started having kids and then it was a collective “Love you guys.” My mother says it more and more as we have gotten older and I know when she says it, she means it. Thank goodness for that.

    I am so sorry Julia and Melissa that you never got that from your parents. That is child cruelty.

    But we can make up for all that abuse!

    XO all the way to Maine!

  14. Erika Marks says:

    Julia, I don’t think I can do justice to this beautiful, tender post so I won’t even try. Other than to say I am so grateful for your friendship and your warmth. The world is a better place for it!



  15. Shary, I know what you mean about the love of getting letters in the mail. There is something so special and satisfying about opening a letter. I go through phases of writing more, but email and texting are king… so much more immediate. I love how letters allow for a slower pace. Glad I inspired you! You can expect my letter soon, pen pal! xo Julia

    Karen, Hugs back! Thank you! No question that we can ALL use more love in our lives. As the Beatles used to say, “all you need is love.” Maybe that’s a little too far, but at the root of everything, it’s possibly not far from the truth! xo Julia

    Hallie, You are so sweet, and we can dispute until the cows come home which of us is sweeter…. so let’s not. Instead, let me just say thank you for sharing your lovely expressions to your kids. Lovely. I love the way you say the words I love you back and forth. Wonderful rituals. Don’t get me started on child cruelty…. some day I’ll tell you the story. Thanks for being you, Hallie! xo Julia

    Erika, You win the prize for bringing tears to my eyes today — thank you for being such a wonderful and supportive writer friend. The Maine bond has really pulled us together out of the wild-blue-yonder, and I love that. Hugs back. xo Julia

  16. Beautiful post. It’s great you were able to break the cycle of not talking about feelings within a family. I’ve found that’s not often the case.
    Thank you for the blog-Valentine 🙂 I completely forget it was Valentine’s day. I was just on the phone with a new doctor I’m going to see tomorrow and he said “Well I guess I’ll see you on Valentines Day” and I thought, what the heck? No idea. It’s been kind of a long week.

  17. I love you, Julia! First you brighten my day with your sweet card and now this post. I’m not at all surprised that you are so open and loving with your own family. I can very much relate. I’ve always been very open about my feelings with those closest to me–I think it’s important to always remember, even if we’re arguing or having a bad day, that love remains constant through it all. So even if it may seem like I tell my husband I love you way too many times a day, or like I hang up every conversation with my grandparents and parents with a “te quiero mucho” it’s only because the words are just a small demonstration of how great that love is.

    And I love the title of this post, by the way. It’s easily one of my favorite songs by The Mamas & The Papas 🙂

  18. Sara, Thank you so much; and I’m glad I could provide the reminder service 🙂 MEH and I often wonder why we’re such outliers within our own families of origin — maybe throwbacks to some ancient super analytical chatterbox tribe or something? Who knows, but we do talk about feelings, which I’m very glad about because it’s not my experience, either, that it changes very often! Happy Valentine, Sara, with lots of love from Sandbar AND me, too! xo Julia

    Natalia, Thank you; I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I think you and I are very much cut from the same cloth. I completely agree that no matter what kind of day, the love remains constant. I honestly think that’s one of the keys to a long and happy relationship…. especially when things get rough. It’s impossible to say I love you way too many times, in my opinion, and I love this that you said: “it’s only because the words are just a small demonstration of how great that love is.” BEAUTIFUL. (p.s. I love that song too and couldn’t decide between that one and “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love,” AND I absolutely adore “te quiero mucho.” I love you, too. xo Julia

  19. Oh that’s the perfect card, isn’t it?
    Wonderful post, Julia.
    I too, grew up in a family where the words weren’t said much. Guess maybe it’s just a generational thing?
    We say it frequently at the Robertson house, and my kids say it to their friends as well.
    Life is too short not to tell each other how much we care.
    Your friendship is sweet as a box of chocolates, dear. xo

  20. Julia, this is such a wonderful post, so full of meaning and the most important thing of all – love. I, like you, think it’s so important to voice that, and now my children do too, as we tell each other regularly. Friendships struck up through twitter and blogging have been unbelievable, and have taken me completely by surprise. Obviously, our Santa Box and letter exchanges really summed that up for me. Whatever things happen in our lives, it really is love that makes the world go round isn’t it? Happy Valentine’s to you Julia, a very special friend xo

  21. Jen says:

    SO beautifully said. Life sometimes rushes by at a blinding pace, and it’s so easy to forget to say I love you. Not just with words, but in every way. Hand-written notes are so special because of the time it took to write it – that all precious commodity. It makes them so much more valuable!

  22. Cynthia, So true: “Life is too short not to tell each other how much we care.” Thanks for your kind words, dear friend! xo Julia

    Abi, I’m so glad you loved the post — truly whatever happens in our lives, all you really need is love (The Beatles were certainly right on with that song, weren’t they?). Our friendship is certainly an example of the true reach of Twitter. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, Santa twin! xo Julia

    Jen, Thank you so much for your sweet words, and you’re right, the handwritten notes do take on a special place — just knowing how much more time they take to create them. So important in this “blinding pace” world — you are so right!
    xo Julia

  23. Jamie says:

    I smiled when you first mentioned your biog name. My parents didn’t say it a lot — but do sign letters and now emails that way. I like you always try to say “I love you” when getting off the phone or a loved one is leaving for the day. Makes me twinge when I realize I didn’t get the chance. Happy Valentines to you and MEH.

  24. Jamie says:

    I smiled when you first mentioned your biog name. My parents didn’t say it a lot — but do sign letters and now emails that way. I like you always try to say “I love you” when getting off the phone or a loved one is leaving for the day. Makes me twinge when I realize I didn’t get the chance. Happy Valentines to you and MEH.

  25. Jamie, I know that “mother’s twinge” oh so well — I especially hate it if we’re on a cell phone call in an iffy-coverage area and the call gets dropped without even saying goodbye. THE WORST. My son went to college on the other side of a mountain range, and whenever he was driving through, I made a point of not calling until I knew he was through them. Happy Valentines to you guys, too! 🙂 xo Julia

  26. Nancy Kelley says:

    What a lovely post, Julia. It’s important to tell people how we feel, even if we think our actions have made those emotions blindingly obvious. If the feelings are obvious, what’s the harm in saying the words? And to people who need the words, it makes a world of difference.

    And as for hand-written notes, I’ve gotten back in the habit recently thanks to the Dear Jane project over at We matched over 40 people up with pen pals, and we’ve been writing for almost 6 months now. It’s a fun way to get to know people a little bit better.

  27. Aisha says:

    It makes me tear up, after all thse years, for love to stay as strong as eve-r we’re approaching year 10. I look forward to our own journey to come. Happy xoxoxo day 🙂

  28. Nancy, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The Dear Jane project sounds wonderful! On an impromptu basis, I suppose that’s what I’m joining Hallie in doing — but I think it’s lovely to set up pen pals. It really is a fun way to get to know people better, I agree, and seems in fitting with Jane! xo Julia

    Aisha, I still tear up too, believe it or not, and the journey just keeps getting better. So wonderful to have such a long term relationship. “Isn’t life grand?” as MEH likes to say! xo Julia

  29. Such a great post! Happy Valentine’s Day, Julia!

  30. Leah, Thank you, friend! Happy Valentine’s Day!! xo Julia

  31. What a sweet post with so many important truths! xoxo to you, Julia.

  32. Nina B says:

    This was the sweetest post. I love hearing that your affection rubbed off on your kids. My parents weren’t and still are not all that affectionate. I know they love me, there’s no question there. But it took a long time for me to not feel weird being a hugger and a “I love you” person. I am now and I hope my kids will be too.

  33. Amy, Thank you so much! Happy Valentine’s Day! xo Julia (p.s. wishing you a wonderful chocolate day — IT’S THE LAW!)

    Nina, Thank you, glad you enjoyed! I feel so fortunate that my kids are affectionate in return! I’m like you, it took me a long time to not feel weird about hugging — now I think my IRL friends would be shocked at that! I’m sure your affection will rub off on your kids, too. xo Julia

  34. I have a friend who sends letters on beautiful handcrafted paper stock.Letter writing has totally gone by the wayside with our email culture. It’s such a treat to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill or solicitation.

  35. Happy Valentine’s Day, Julia! I love handwritten notes. They’re so rare that it makes my day to receive them. I think it’s fun to send them too, but I just don’t think to do it often enough. I would to exchange handwritten notes if you’re up for it. Have a great night!

  36. Jackie, Funny you would mention the beautiful paper stock. I am finding that to be my biggest challenge — I can’t find nice stationery! In fact, I went looking for airmail paper and apparently need to go to a small specialty store. The clerk at Staples had NO idea what I was talking about and looked at me blankly when I said I guessed I’d just send emails. 🙂 I so agree, it is an amazing treat to get anything hand written in the mail! xo Julia

    Jen, I am the same way as you — I just don’t send handwritten notes enough, instead opting for email — usually I just send cards for special occasions, and I have one friend who really prefers handwritten mail to email! It really does make my day when I go to the mailbox and get one so it is incentive to send out more myself! Can’t wait to send you yours! xo Julia

  37. Barb Riley says:

    Happy belated Valentine’s Day to you, my dear friend. I loved this post, and I love your heart. I can’t wait to get my handwritten letter from you.

    XOXO 🙂

  38. Barb, Happy belated Valentine’s Day to you too! I’m so happy you loved the post — and I’m so happy you’ve been such a loyal follower! Your letter is in the mail! xoxo Julia

  39. Susan Okaty says:

    This was so touching, Julia. I could feel the love pouring out. I would love to get a handwritten note from you. In fact, I would love to get a visit from you if you are ever near Virginia Beach. I’m so sorry that your family of origin did not know how to express love, but how wonderful that you have so much of it now. Loved, loved, loved this post!

  40. Writing more handwritten letters has been on my list of things to do for ages. There’s something very romantic about the words travelling around the world to reach someone you love. Thanks for the reminder.

  41. Susan, Thank you for your sweet comment (and your invitation to visit) — brought tears to my eyes! I’ll look forward to writing you your letter! xo Julia

    thegoodgreatsby, I agree — it is such a romantic notion to have a letter travel to reach someone. Somehow it gives the words more weight than an email or text or FB message, perhaps it’s the effort, I’m not sure. I hope you’ll write a letter; I have enjoyed this month so much! Thank you for the comment and for your visit to my blog! xo Julia